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Nationals' Max Scherzer flirts with perfection vs Brewers, settles for 16 K complete game shutout, 4-0

Max Scherzer retired the first eighteen Milwaukee Brewers' batters he faced today in Miller Park before Carlos Gomez hit a bloop single to right. Scherzer settled for a 16 strikeout, complete game shutout which the Washington Nationals won, 4-0.

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Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

5. Scherzer in Miller Park: After piling up five-straight wins between May 6th and May 27th, and earning the NL Pitcher of the Month award from Major League Baseball, Max Scherzer was on a two-start losing streak before taking the hill this afternoon in the series finale with the Milwaukee Brewers in Miller Park.

In back-to-back losses to the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees, Washington's 30-year-old right-hander gave up 14 hits and eight runs, all earned, in 12 ⅓ innings pitched, one more run than he allowed over 36 IP during his win-streak in May.

"'I was on seven days’ rest,' he said. 'I could’ve pitched all night.'" -Max Scherzer on start vs Yankees to the Washington Post

Nationals' skipper Matt Williams let Scherzer go to a season-high pitch count trying to get a win in the series opener in Yankee Stadium, but an error on a potential inning-ending grounder led to the second run that scored with Scherzer on the mound in New York, and the two runners he left on ended up coming around in what went from a 1-1 tie to a 5-1 deficit in a hurry.

"He's upwards of 110 pitches," Williams explained when asked about his decision to keep Scherzer in the game against the Yankees, "so it's... we want to push him through that inning if we can, allow him to potentially get us through, but once they scored the run and he's [at] 116, I'm not going to push him any further. He's got to start in five days again, so no need to push him just to push him."

That 116 pitch total, is, of course, just two more than Scherzer's previous season high, and Williams has repeatedly said this season that the veteran righty is good to around 115.

The loss to the Yankees left the Nationals' right-hander (6-5) on the season with a 2.13 ERA, a 2.26 FIP, 13 walks (2.57 BB/9), 97 Ks (10.29 K/9) and a .208/.244/.318 line against after 12 starts and 84 ⅓ IP.

Scherzer took the mound against the Brewers this afternoon, in his 13th start of the 2015 campaign and retired the side in order in a quick, 11-pitch, 1-2-3 first.

He added two Ks, for three total, in a 12-pitch, 1-2-3 second that left him at 23-pitches total after two.

Hector Gomez K'd swinging at an 0-2 slider outside to start the bottom of the third and Brewers' catcher Martin Maldonado took a 96 mph 2-2 fastball for a called third strike and the fourth straight strikeout by Scherzer.

A groundout to short by the opposing pitcher, Taylor Jungmann, gave the Nationals' right-hander nine straight outs to start the game. 11-pitch frame, 34 total.

Given a 2-0 lead to work with, Scherzer retired the side in order again in the fourth, striking Ryan Braun out with a 97 mph 2-2 fastball to end a nine-pitch inning with his sixth strikeout. 12-straight outs. 43 total after four.

Adam Lind K'd looking at a 1-2 changeup outside. K no.7. Jean Segura chased an 0-2 curve into the dirt. No.8. Scooter Gennett's pop to short left gave Scherzer 15 straight outs to start the game. 10-pitch frame, 53 total.

Hector Gomez chased a filthy slider out of the zone for K no.9 and out no.16. Martin Maldonado fell behind 0-2, got back to 2-2 and went down chasing an 87 mph slider outside. K no.10, out no.17. Pinch hitter Shane Peterson fell behind 0-2 quickly and took a 97 mph 1-2 fastball letter-high outside for a called third strike. K no.11, out no.18. 14-pitch frame, 67 total.

Carlos Gomez ended Scherzer's bid for perfection with a broken-bat blooper of a leadoff single to right in the first at bat of the seventh that dropped in over a sprinting Anthony Rendon and in front of Clint Robinson. Three quick outs followed in a 13-pitch frame that ended with Adam Lind chasing a 1-2 change down and away. 12 Ks. 80 pitches total. 21 of 22 set down.

Scooter Gennett took the first walk of the day from Scherzer with one down in the eighth, but Hector Gomez K'd swinging over a brutal 0-2 curve for out no.2 and K no.13, and Martin Maldonado K'd swinging through an 0-2 fastball up high. K no.14. 23-pitch frame, 103 total.

Scherzer came back out for the ninth and struck pinch hitter Jason Rogers out for his 15th K. ONE! Carlos Gomez went down swinging at a 2-2 slider outside. 16 Ks. TWO! Gerardo Parra fell behind 0-2 and grounded out to first to end Scherzer's complete game shutout.

4. Jungmann on the mound: Taylor Jungmann, 25, was selected by Milwaukee 12th overall in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft, just five spots after the Washington Nationals took Anthony Rendon sixth overall that June.

Jungmann, a Temple, Texas-born, University of Texas-educated right-hander, spent three-plus seasons in the Brewers' system, going (35-29) with a 4.10 ERA in 505 ⅓ innings pitched before he was called up to make his MLB debut on June 9th on the road in PNC Park, where he held the Pirates to one run on three hits in a 4-1 game in which he earned his first major league win.

Brewers' skipper Craig Counsell was apparently impressed with the effort by Jungmann in his first MLB start, since he told reporters, including the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Tom Haudricourt immediately after the outing that Jungmann would get another turn in the rotation.

"'He's here and he did more than his job,'" Counsell said. "'He's the big reason why we won tonight. So, he'll get the start on Sunday.'"

As for a more detailed account of the work Jungmann did in the seven inning effort, in which he threw 92 pitches and gave up just the one run on a home run by Starling Marte, while inducing 10 ground ball outs?

"That's as good as it gets," said Counsell. "The most impressive thing is he pounded the strike zone. He really did a good job in the strike zone with his fastball, and had enough off-speed (stuff) to slow them down a little bit. He made quality pitches with his fastball.

"I thought he really would respond to the stage and he did. He's been on that kind of stage before (with the University of Texas). He was very poised out there and in control of everything, really."

Armed with a four-seam fastball, which averaged 92.1 mph in his debut, and got up to 94, a 77 mph curveball and a change he mixed just three times (85.4 mph), Jungmann took the mound this afternoon in Miller Park in the series finale with the Nationals and, with some help from two successful replay challenges, completed a scoreless, 26-pitch first.

Michael Taylor singled with two down in the second, but was stranded at the end of a 16-pitch frame that left Jungmann at 42 pitches.

Denard Span singled to start the Nationals' third, stole second base, took third on a line drive single to right by Danny Espinosa and scored on a sac fly to right by Anthony Rendon to make it 1-0 in the third.

Espinosa was caught stealing one out later to end 20-pitch frame for Jungmann, 62 total after three.

Clint Robinson singled to center in the first at bat of the Nats' fourth and advanced on a wild pitch with Ian Desmond at the plate. Desmond K'd looking (1 for 11, 9 Ks in MIL), but another wild pitch to Jose Lobaton moved Robinson to third, and Lobaton came through with a single to left to bring the runner in, 2-0. A single by Max Schezer and a walk to Denard Span loaded the bases with two down, but Jungmann struck Danny Espinosa out to end a 31 pitch frame. 93 total.

Jungmann came back out for the fifth at 93 pitches, hit the fourth Nats' batter the Brewers have hit in two days, but completed a scoreless 12-pitch frame that left him at 105.

Taylor Jungmann's Line: 5.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 Ks, 105 P, 67 S, 6/1 GO/FO.

3. HR Streak: Yunel Escobar went to straight-center and Wilson Ramos went all the way the other way yesterday for their third, and fifth home runs of the year, respectively, and the four-baggers gave the Nationals, as a team, homers in eight straight games, their longest streak of the season.

"You're going to hit a homer every once in a while, but to be able to put those back-to-back-to-back hits together, especially leading off the first is important for us..." -Matt Williams after the Nationals' win in Milwaukee on Saturday

The solo blasts also gave the Nats 67 home runs total on the year, good for fourth-most in the National League, but as Matt Williams told reporters after the game, it was the hits the Nationals strung together in the win over the Brewers that were big.

"The singles with guys in scoring position are huge," Williams said.

"You're going to hit a homer every once in a while, but to be able to put those back-to-back-to-back hits together, especially leading off the first is important for us, jumping out to a lead and let Joe [Ross] settle in a little bit."

Anthony Rendon, Escobar and Bryce Harper connected for the back-to-back-to-back hits Williams was referring to in the opening frame, with Harper driving Rendon in from second with the third straight hit off Brewers' right-hander Jimmy Nelson, and the Nationals went 3 for 12 with runners in scoring position on the day, in what ended up a 7-2 win.

The Nationals strung together some hits in the third with Denard Span and Danny Espinosa singling in front of Anthony Rendon, whose sac fly brought in the first run of the game.

With a 2-0 lead and two out in the sixth, the Nationals collected three straight hits with Anthony Rendon and Yunel Escobar singling and scoring when Clint Robinson lined to left for a two-out double off Brewers' righty Jeremy Jeffress. 4-0 Nationals.

The home run streak ended today in Milwaukee, but Washington managed to end a four-series losing streak by earning a split of the four-game set in Miller Park.

2. Turning Point(s): The Nationals had close calls that went their way at first and second base in the opening frame overturned upon review. Not a good start for the umps, but they got the calls right quickly and helped Brewers' righty Taylor Jungmann work his way out of what could have been a big first for the visiting team.

• Denard Span made things happen in the third, singling up the middle, stealing his sixth base of the season, moving up on a line drive single by Danny Espinosa and scoring on a sac fly to deep right by Anthony Rendon. 1-0.

• Clint Robinson singled to start the fourth and advanced two bases on wild pitches before scoring on a single through the left side of the infield by Jose Lobaton. 2-0 Nationals.

• The moment Max Scherzer took the mound. Scherzer retired the first 18 Brewers he faced, striking out 11 before he finally gave up a hit in the seventh.

1. The Wrap-Up: Corey Knebel took over on the mound for Milwaukee in the top of the sixth, and retired the Nats in order.

Jeremy Jeffress came on for the Brewers in the top of the seventh, and gave up back-to-back two-out singles by Anthony Rendon and Yunel Escobar and a two-run double by Clint Robinson that made it 4-0 Nats.

Jonathan Broxton retired the Nationals in order in the top of the eighth inning.

Francisco Rodriguez completed a quick scoreless ninth.

The Nationals took the series finale, however, and settled for a split in Miller Park, 4-0 final.

Nationals now 33-30